There are six themes at the heart of the book. Within each, we explore the key leadership transition challenges and dilemmas that arise for top leaders (see Figure 1).

There are three parts to the book.

In Part 1 we begin by ‘Setting the Trajectory,’ focusing on:

  • The concept of transitions and reflections from our interviewees about their own experiences (Chapter 1);
  • Exploring the role of Head of University (HoU) (Chapter 2);
  • The context of higher education as a factor in understanding how to lead each university how this could – and should – influence the type of leader that’s needed (Chapter 3);
  • Data to help us understand the characteristics of HoUs today, as well as different pathways to the top. Are there any patterns to be discovered? (Chapter 4);
  • The many reasons why people choose to become a HoU and how they get appointed to the role (Chapter 5).

In Part 2, we examine the most common aspects, responsibilities and actions associated with being a HoU.  The focus is on different facets of ‘Leading the University’:

  • The early stages of arriving, taking up office and orientating oneself to the role (Chapter 6);
  • Forming a high performing top team (Chapter 7); 
  • Developing a medium to longer-term strategy (Chapter 8); 
  • Making changes to enable your strategy to be delivered (Chapter 9); 
  • The leadership challenges associated with leading in a crisis (Chapter 10)
  • Extending your reach externally while balancing internal demands (Chapter 11);
  • Personal experiences of the role, and how to navigate challenges so as to survive and thrive as a HoU (Chapter 12);
  • Staying there, informed by lessons from real case-studies that could help to avoid the problem of derailment (Chapter 13); 
  • Reaching a view about when to exit from the role (and how to avoid ‘being exited’) (Chapter 14).

In Part 3, the focus is, ‘We need to change,’ taking three perspectives:

  • First, personal change as you contemplate life beyond the role – shaping your new beginnings (Chapter 15); 
  • Second, changes that will influence the future context of higher education and the implications of these for HoU roles (Chapter 16);
  • Third, setting out our proposals for changing current practices to nudge the odds further towards successful transitions for new HoUs (Chapter 17).
  • Finally, some final reflections and advice from our experienced HoU interviewees, ‘Voices from the Top,’ forms a conclusion to the book (Chapter 18).